What if Our Women’s Ministry Isn’t Valued?

One reader recently wrote to us with these questions:

One of the greatest challenges in our area for women’s ministry in general is for the ministry to be seen as valuable. Of the forty leaders I network with, only one actually gets a budget from the church. There are none who are paid leaders or even go to staff meetings to represent the ministry. I see a lot of leaders that want to shift women’s ministry back to being gospel centered/disciple making, but they lack the support from the church to do so because the leaders have an antiquated view of women’s ministry. How does a women’s ministry leader who is trying to shift to more serious ministry work break through the stigma?

I can hear the frustration behind her question, can’t you? Ministry is challenging under the most idyllic circumstances, and serving in a church or area where women’s ministry is misunderstood is even less than ideal. Whether you are dealing with male leadership or a population of women who misunderstand the goal of women’s ministry, the tide is not often easily turned. Here are four strategies for making a shift.

1. “Never complain. Never explain.”

I love this straightforward strategy originally coined by British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. It echoes biblical truth.

First, we are called to live and minister without grumbling.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain (Phil. 2:14–16).

We can take this posture because we know that God alone is our defender.

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold (Ps. 18:2).

Being a Christian means being misunderstood. And being in ministry may mean a double dose of misunderstanding. Trying to convince everyone that women’s ministry is justified will leave you in a perpetual state of whack-a-mole. Instead, take your concerns to the Lord. Ask Him to change hearts and minds when it comes to women’s ministry in your church and community. He is an expert at heart change. Us? Not so much.

Our job is always faithfulness; His job is always fruitfulness. Instead of letting false perceptions gnaw at you, get busy doing the work, operating within the parameters that are set before you, trusting the Lord to multiply and expand the ministry in His timing.

2. Guard your gate well.

So you want to build a gospel-focused, Word-saturated women’s ministry? Hooray! Picture me busting out my pompoms and cheering you on from the sidelines. Get to it! While large budgets and salaried roles might make the sailing a bit smoother, they aren’t essential to creating a focused ministry. What is needed is a clear vision and a commitment to seeing it through.

If God has established you as a women’s ministry leader, even if the scope of that ministry feels limited right now, He has placed you at an important gate. Guard the mission well.

Every area of ministry faces mission drift. Misunderstandings about the core mission are common, and the pull to focus on something other than the Main Thing is not unique to women’s ministry. That’s why we must depend heavily on the Spirit and the Word to keep our focus in check.

Don’t test the wind. Don’t let the perceptions of others distract you from your focus. If you are serving in women’s ministry, you are a gatekeeper. Force yourself to wrestle with the question: Are the things I’m doing/planning leading to a greater gospel/Word focus or contributing to the misunderstanding of our mission?

3. Open the dialogue.

While Jesus did teach us that our treasure is tied to our true feelings (Matt. 6:21), a lack of church resources doesn’t necessarily indicate a lack of perceived value. Open up the lines of communication with the leadership of the church, and ask for what you need rather than assuming the needs are obvious and a lack of funding translates to a lack of value for the women’s ministry.

Make an appointment with your pastor and share your vision. Then (and this is important!) ask to hear what he wants women’s ministry to look like within your church. Do the same with elders and other leadership. Ask to attend staff/elder meetings rather than assuming that you don’t have a seat at the table because you’re not welcome.

Several months ago, I approached the elders of my church and asked to schedule a quarterly meeting. Taking the initiative in this way wasn’t intended to usurp their authority but rather to place myself more securely under it. In those meetings, the elders ask great clarifying questions and dream with me about where we want the ministry to go.

I often face a temptation to speak in emotional language in these meetings, communicating mainly about how I feel things are going. This is rarely helpful. In contrast, these regular touchstones with leadership have forced me to articulate the biblical backbone for women’s ministry and to ask for help in implementing that vision.

If we don’t ask, the answer is always “no.” Ask for input. Ask for resources. Ask for help in creating and executing vision. Ask to be a part of the larger vision and mission of the church. Men and women are made for complementary roles within the home and church. Another way to say that is . . . teamwork makes the dream work. Collaborate often, being open-handed about how the ministry operates by listening to the suggestions of others.

4. Be faithful.

There is simply no substitute for faithfulness.

How can you change perceptions of women’s ministry? By faithfully doing what He has called you to do. Week after week, month after month, year after year.

Teach the gospel. Elevate the Word of God. Give women what they need, even when it is not what they want. Resist the fluff, and go for the spiritual jugular.

The best billboards for women’s ministry within your church are the changed lives of women. Including yours.

I love this charge by missionary Helen Roseveare:

If you think you have come to the mission field because you are a little better than others, or as the cream of your church, or because of your medical degree, or for the service you can render the African church, or even for the souls you may see saved, you will fail. Remember, the Lord has only one purpose ultimately for each one of us, to make us more like Jesus. He is interested in your relationship with Himself. Let Him take you and mould you as He will; all the rest will take its rightful place.

In other words, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33).

Pledge your allegiance to the kingdom. Get busy doing kingdom-focused work. Perhaps He desires to change you before He changes how others see you. Serve Him faithfully, friend, laying down your hopes for a bigger budget or louder support and picking up the Truth that this is His church, these are His women, and you are His servant.

With eyes focused on Him, let’s get busy.

About the Author

Erin Davis

Erin Davis is married to her high school sweetheart, Jason, and together they parent four energetic boys on their small farm in the midwest. She is the author of more than a dozen books and Bible studies, the content manager for Revive Our Hearts, and a host of the Grounded videocast. You can hear her teach on The Deep Well with Erin Davis podcast.